2007-01-28

World Music: Part 5 of 4 - I'm Moving to Canada


As I indicated in my previous post, we had an artist stranded in Montreal, because the U.S. Embassy in London lost his passport and visa during processing. I spent SEVERAL hours contacting the embassies in London and Montreal, personnel at the Vermont Border crossing, personnel at USCIS, CBP and the State Department, all of Vermont's representatives in Washington, heck - even an immigration lawyer who is a family friend, trying to find a solution.

We explored the possibility of the Visa Waiver Program:
Nationals from 27 countries (primarily Europe, plus Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore) may enter the U.S. without a visa for up to 90 days. The general requirements for participation include no prior overstays in the U.S., a machine readable passport, a processing fee (in U.S. funds only) and a prepaid round-trip ticket to a non-contiguous country within 90 days of arrival. Here was the rub for us, however: Aliens entering under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are subject to the same rules as those admitted in B-1 or B-2 status - meaning they cannot work!

However, before using the VWP, you should carefully consider your options. If you are admitted to the U.S. under the VWP, you may not change or extend your non-immigrant status. If your admission is denied, you have no right to administrative or judicial review. Likewise, if you are found to have violated the terms of your admission, you also forfeit the right to contest a removal order.
After leaving voice messages, faxes, and e-mails scattered throughout the globe, I was able to speak with an extremely helpful border agent at our very own Vermont border crossing in Highgate. He confirmed many of the above stipulations of the VWP, and suggested that the consulate in Montreal might be able to reissue our artist's visa on an expedited basis. A staffer at Senator Leahy's Burlington office also called the Embassy in London trying to help as well.

After a few attempts, I actually heard back, via e-mail, from the U.S. Consulate in Montreal. It was an unsigned e-mail, from a general e-mail box, with no contact information whatsoever, but offering the following advice:

We will be able to accept [your pianist's] application for a visa today before 11:00 am. Please contact him immediately so that he can complete the DS-156 form online at evisaforms.state.gov. He has to complete all the questions on that form online and then print out all three pages, including the third page with the barcode. If he is under 45 years of age, he must also complete the DS-157 form. He needs to bring his passport, one recent, passport-sized photo and 100$ in US cash only. If he shows up without any of the above, he will be turned away and will not be processed. He MUST be here before 11:00 am to get processed because we will closed tomorrow. Otherwise, he will not be able to travel to the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program if he is getting paid for the performance.

Please confirm if he will be here before 11:00 am.
Best Regards.
I received this e-mail at 9:57 am. I broke my phone upon reading it.

The pianist was staying at a hotel at the airport - almost 30 minutes by taxi from the consulate. I know he probably didn't have a spare passport photo on him, or $100 U.S. for that matter, so while it was an impossible task for us, I did try to appreciate that fact that they actually responded and we now know the option exists if similar problems arise in the future.

I must say our pianist, for all he went through, was gracious and performed spectacularly. He used the time in Montreal to rest, get his hair cut (he claims to have looked like Chewbacca before the trim,) eat great food, and watch some bad cable movies. We asked if he practiced his all Beethoven program on the piano in the hotel bar, to which he replied, "Yeah, until some drunk demanded I switch to Bach."

Even with a shiny new democratic house and senate, I fear Bush with his 6 years of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, increased ridiculous bureaucracy, refusal to sign Kyoto, IRAQ, and the incredible damage he has done to our global relations, I'm about ready to throw in the towel and move to Canada. At least I already know their national anthem.

Montreal HDR Photo courtesy of Alistair Howard
Updated 1/28/07 for typos and links.

1 comment:

KrisUnderwood said...

Yeah, Canada looks good....

Been cold enough for you lately? I think we got a bit spoiled in December, eh?